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Cell Mol Life Sci. 1999 Nov 15;56(7-8):567-79.

The polycystins: a novel class of membrane-associated proteins involved in renal cystic disease.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, Addenbrooke's Hospital, UK.


Polycystin-1, polycystin-2 and polycystin-L are the predicted protein products of the PKD1, PKD2 and PKDL genes, respectively. Mutations in PKD1 and PKD2 are responsible for almost all cases of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). This condition is one of the commonest mendelian disorders of man with a prevalence of 1:800 and is responsible for nearly 10% of cases of end-stage renal failure in adults. The cloning of PKD1 and PKD2 in recent years has provided the initial steps in defining the mechanisms underlying renal cyst formation in this condition, with the aim of defining pharmacological and genetic interventions that may ameliorate the diverse and often serious clinical manifestations of this disease. The PKD genes share regions of sequence similarity, and all predictintegral membrane proteins. Whilst the predicted protein domain structure of polycystin-1 suggests it is involved in cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions, the similarity of polycystin-2 and polycystin-L to the pore-forming domains of some cation channels suggests that they all form subunits of a large plasma membrane ion channel. In the few years since the cloning of the PKD genes, a consensus that defines the range of mutations, expression pattern, interactions and functional domains of these genes and their protein products is emerging. This review will therefore attempt to summarise these data and provide an insight in to the key areas in which polycystin research is unravelling the mechanisms involved in renal cyst formation.

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